TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire -06/20/12)- Canada's rapidly growing Aboriginal population has the potential to fill the country's looming skill and labour shortage but only if a widening post-secondary education gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people can be stemmed, according to BMO Financial Group.
"With an aging workforce, and looming skill and labour shortages, Canada needs these future employees. We need their capacity, creativity and skills," said Stephen Fay, National Director, Aboriginal Banking Unit, BMO Financial Group.
As the youngest and fastest growing segment of Canada's population, Aboriginal youth represent a large pool of talent for Canada's workforce. The Aboriginal population is growing at a rate of 1.8 per cent -- almost twice the growth rate of the general population at 1 per cent.
By the end of 2017, Aboriginal people of will comprise 3.4 per cent of the working age population in Canada. Yet Indigenous people continue to be over-represented amongst Canada's unemployed.
A key contributing factor is the gap in their level of post-secondary education.
Twenty-three per cent of the non-Aboriginal population has a university degree. In stark contrast, only 8 per cent of the Indigenous population (First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples) and only 4 per cent of First Nations peoples have a university degree.
"Raising the bar on Aboriginal education is the right thing to do; it helps our students, it helps our country and frankly, it helps corporations like BMO," said Mr. Fay. "Higher levels of education lead to better prospects, opportunities and jobs for these young people, and as a result to healthier communities right across Canada."
"There is no question in my mind that the future of this country has everything to do with the degree to which Indigenous young people have the opportunity to play a part in the economy," said Roberta L. Jamieson, President and CEO of Indspire. Indspire, formerly the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, is an organization dedicated to transforming Aboriginal education in Canada.
"I know BMO gets this message," added Ms. Jamieson. "The bank's support has helped Indigenous students from across the country and across academic disciplines ready themselves to make their contributions to their people, their communities, and to the country."
Earlier this week Mr. Fay and Ms. Jamieson were featured speakers at an event to mark National Aboriginal Day and the 20th Anniversary of BMO's Aboriginal Banking Unit. Ms. Jamieson commended the bank for its leadership and vision in helping Aboriginal youth pursue post-secondary education when BMO presented gifts of $112,500 to both Indspire and the Foundation for the Advancement of Aboriginal Youth (FAAY).
The donations were funded by the BMO Capital Markets Equity Through Education program, which is aimed at creating a more diverse workplace by helping people realize their educational ambitions by providing opportunities they might not otherwise have. Since Equity Through Education began in 2005, BMO has donated a total of $1.6 million to fund 386 Indspire and FAAY student scholarships.
About BMO Financial Group's Aboriginal Banking Unit
-- Started in 1992, BMO's Aboriginal Banking Unit has 12 on-reserve branches. It has more than $2 billion in business relationships with Aboriginal customers, through the provision of loans and advice to on- reserve businesses. BMO also helps create employment directly by employing local Aboriginal people in our on-reserve branches and elsewhere in the company, and indirectly through our financing of community initiatives, projects and businesses. -- The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business has recognized BMO with the Gold Level of Progressive Aboriginal Relations Award three consecutive times.